New Tunisian president promises clean break

AP , Tuesday 13 Dec 2011

Tunisia's newly elected president promised at his swearing-in ceremony Tuesday to be a leader for all Tunisians

Moncef Marzouki
Veteran human right activist, Moncef Marzouki, waves to photographers before the election of the interim president held at the constituent assembly in Tunis, Monday, Dec. 12, 2012.(Photo: AP)

Veteran rights activist Moncef Marzouki, who was repeatedly imprisoned by the old regime, said he would make a clean break with Tunisia's history of dictatorship and promised Tunisians the right to education, work and healthcare and equal rights to all women.

Tunisians overthrew their long ruling dictator in January, sparking a wave of pro-democracy protests across the region. In October they elected an assembly to write their new constitution and appoint a new president and interim government.

"Tunisians have proved to the world that they are a civilized people who have the ability and resources to overcome all challenges," he said, while acknowledging urgent work needs to be done to save a failing economy. "The Arab world is watching the Tunisian experience and its success will be a model while its failure would have negative repercussions."

Marzouki pledged to work with both the ruling coalition that elected him as well as the opposition that turned in blank ballots at his election. Opposition politicians have expressed worry that most of the power in the new republic is concentrated in the hands of the prime minister and not shared with the president.

Marzouki, who has few real powers, pledged to consult with both the ruling coalition and the opposition and called on them to "demonstrate fair play and propose solutions" to the many problems wracking this North African country of 10 million.

The uprising against former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was partly driven by economic concerns and to this day some 700,000 young people, 200,000 of them university graduates, remain unemployed.
He also pledged to increase investment and development in the country's impoverished interior where the revolution began on Dec. 17, almost a year ago.

Marzouki shed tears at the conclusion of his speech as he mentioned the sacrifices of the more than 250 people who died during the uprising. The new president must now appoint a prime minister, expected to be Hamadi Jebali of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party which won the most seats.

Jebali then has 21 days to form a government, which will then be submitted to parliament for approval.

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